Vol. 17 No. 1 1950 - page 91

FICTION CHRONICLE
89
man, after his childhood in Sicily, moved to a state of intellection and
response more complex than anything in peasant life, a safe assumption
in
literature, when we have a "despairing" character, fed up with life,
even bored with himself. Credulity and psychology are strained by at–
tempting to believe in his renewal through peasant courage and hon–
esty. But the most serious flaw in the book is the ready
"discovery'~
of
what one may doubt has ever been truly forgotten; namely, that it is
better to be a living man than a corpse sacrificed to the "honor" of his
country, that a husband ought to help his wife in labor and not stand
around attitudinizing.
I n Sicily
makes its claim upon the emotions by many contrivances
meant to suggest sincerity, but often suggesting the opposite. The end–
less repetition of insignificant dialogue, no doubt just as in life, does not
let the reader forget for a moment that he is concerned with literature.
The characterization of the mother is excellent, however, and her ac–
ceptance of the sexuality of her son, a man old enough to have both
a wife and a mistress, will probably make American readers believe she
is meant to be funny, like
Tobacco Road.
The scholars who used to insist Shakespeare meant Hamlet to be
considered insane obviously felt a need to annihilate a work that re–
fused to confess its secret. Paul Bowles in
The Sheltering Sky,
by having
his heroine sink into a gruesome hebephrenic state at the end of the
novel, has violated a book that is written in a remarkably clear and sug–
gestive style and which manages with its setting and minor characters
to be enormously interesting.
The Sheltering Sky
is a peculiar blend of
the ambition of
A Passage to India
and the mood of
The Sun Also Rises,
a combination perhaps doomed to war incessantly without reaching a
decision. A young, post-war, New York couple, Port and Kit Moresby,
take off for North Africa with their friend, Tunner. Port is impotent
with his wife, a fact that indirectly dominates most of the book, but
for which no explanation or attitude is offered. (The one certain ad–
vantage of the impotence may be to provide a "justification" for the
scenes in Arab brothels and to make the role of the friend, Tunner, more
exciting.) Port dies of typhoid in the desert and Kit goes into the de–
graded state already mentioned. One is repelled and annoyed, retro–
actively, that she should be a central character when it is clearly impos–
sible to know what she is about or even what her actions have meant
previously. Death, impotence, insanity-the major characters, almost
completely without biography, have instead of personality only these
violent, blank fates. They are drier and more barren than the desert;
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